£4m grant to Warwick Uni could help lead to the detection, prevention and control of infectious diseases

Oculus Building, Warwick University, October 2016. Architect: Berman Guedes Stretton.

As plans to evacuate hundreds of Britons trapped in China as the deadly coronavirus outbreak take shape, news comes from the University of Warwick that a £4 million grant from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) could help lead to the detection, prevention and control of infectious diseases. Researchers will work with partners to develop the use of cutting edge genomics to protect public health.

The £4 million grant from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is part of an announced a £58.7 million research investment to protect the public from health threats such as antimicrobial resistance, air pollution and infectious diseases.

Researchers from the School of Life SciencesMathematics InstituteDepartment of Statistics and Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick will use this £4m grant in partnership with researchers from Public Health England, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge to use innovative techniques to protect the public’s health and minimise the health impact of emergencies from infectious diseases.

The new unit specialises in genomics and enabling data. Researchers will look at the genomes of infectious diseases and have one collective data bank to improve English public health.

The scientific researchers from all four institutions will use their expertise to pursue four different themes over the next five years.


Theme 1 Detecting and analysing outbreaks of infectious diseases

Theme 2 Integrating genomic and enabling data into traditional infectious diseases and epidemiology

Theme 3 Developing and implementing user-friendly databases and interfaces

Theme 4 Analysing and predicting evolutionary dynamics and in particular antimicrobial resistance trends


Professor Xavier Didelot, director of the Health Protection Research Unit in Genomics and Enabling Data at the University of Warwick.  said: “It is a great pleasure and privilege to have been selected to lead this Health Protection Research Unit. I am looking forward to working closely with all partners at the University of Warwick, Public Health England, the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

This grant from NIHR means that over the next five years we will work together to develop the use of new genomic methods to protect and improve the nation’s public health, including looking at the detection and spread of diseases, or tackling antibiotic resistance.”

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said:“The UK’s achievements in public health to date have saved the lives of millions of people. This would have been impossible without world-leading research conducted by some of brightest minds up and down the country.

“The latest round of NIHR’s Health Protection Research Units, which have previously played a pivotal role in responding to major events such as the Novichok and Ebola incidents, will continue protect the health of the public and reduce inequalities – helping us all live healthier lives.”

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at PHE, said: “Tackling major public health threats such as antimicrobial resistance, emerging infections and air pollution requires innovative, collaborative research. Our partnerships with leading universities play a critical role in building the science that keeps us safe – not just from current threats, but the health challenges of tomorrow.”